February is a short month. First round of exams is over and I need to concentrate on preparing my students to take standardized exams. I am beginning to feel the pressure. OMG! It’s only February and I am already a bit stressed out. Will I make it to the end of the course with all my wits about me? Highly unlikely!
So, next topic on my list is Food and Nutrition and all the subtopics around it, which are …like a lot.
What you will see in this post is an example of how I prepare my students to take oral exams.
Revision and introduction of vocabulary-related terms
Listening Comprehension Activity: Food waste
Pronunciation Activity: Organic Food No More Nutritious
Speaking Activity through Reading passages with Follow-up Questions
Question for you. Do you have any New Year’s Resolutions? Or let me rephrase it, have you announced to friends and family that you are finally going to hit the gym, eat fewer carbs and give up smoking? Have you? Sorry to be the party pooper here. Statistics say that only 8% of the people who make New Year’s resolutions stick to them. I am definitely part of the 92%. What about you?
However, I have made a New Year’s resolution. It’s the same I made last year. I am going to try to reuse single-use disposable plastic bags when I do my daily shopping. Last year, I even went as far as putting a bunch of these bags in the boot of my car. There they are. Exactly in the same place. This year I am going to try again. I am really going to try. It’s not that I don’t want to. I really want to do my part. It’s just that I forget. So, I am considering moving the bags to the front seat. It might work. What do you think?
That’s what I’m eco-guilty of. What about you? What is your darkest eco-sin?
The lesson today is aimed at students with a language level of B2 (upper-intermediate) and focuses on revising, learning and using vocabulary related to the environment and environmental issues through a variety of engaging activities which will help them learn vocabulary and improve listening, speaking and writing.
Introducing the Topic: Playing Hangman. Vocabulary and Speaking
Aim: Introduce some common vocabulary and to work on pronunciation.
On the board, write the word “Environment” and drill pronunciation.
Divide the class into two or three groups, depending on the number of students in your class.
Team A starts saying one letter. Whether they guess right or wrong, the turn goes now to Team B who will say another letter.
To try to guess the hidden word, a member of the team will need to stand up and say. “We know!”. If they guess right, they score 1 point. If they don’t, the other team can say up to two letters before anybody tries to guess again.
Note: they can only attempt to guess the word once half the letters have been guessed. For this, before each game, you will have to count the number of gaps. For example, if the word contains 8 letters, they can only guess when 4 letters have been filled.
There are four words and expressions to be learnt or revised with this exercise. After they have guessed the words, ask them a question where the target word is used in context. You might need to introduce some new vocabulary at this stage.
Environment: What do you do to help the environment?
Global warming: How do you feel when you hear about global warming?
Recycle: Do you recycle? What kind of things do you recycle?
Renewable energies: Do you know what renewable energies are? Do you use any of them? Why? Why not?
Drill pronunciation as you teach the words and then flip the cards to see how they are used in context. Do this exercise twice.
Reinforcement: there are 24 terms here. Ask students in pairs to write in two minutes as many as they can remember.
Listening. School Strike for Climate Change
In this inspiring thought-provoking talk, 15-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg addresses the world leaders demanding they act against climate change.
Ask students to take down notes from Greta’s talk and then in pairs talk about the most important ideas in her speech.
Encourage the use of vocabulary.
Three Speaking Activities
Gallery Walk. Thought-provoking Posters with a Humorous Twist. Giving a Monologue.
Context: A friend of yours from New Zealand, who until two weeks ago lived for 20 years in a monastery in Bhutan, has decided to pay you a visit. He doesn’t speak the language and besides, knows nothing of the real world we live in.
Student A. He shows you this infographic but needs help to understand it. Choose two or three ideas and explain what they mean.
Student B. He sees this cartoon in a newspaper and doesn’t understand it. Explain it to him.
I know, I know, I can see some of you raising an eyebrow and thinking… “well, I must be weird then, if I don’t like shopping”. Of course, you are not, it’s just that I love it so much that now that I don’t have as much spare time as I used to have, I miss it like crazy.
But I know, not everyone is a shopper, not everyone is a consumer. However, we all need to buy, whether it’s clothes, food or any other stuff. So, this lesson might come in handy whenever you decide to set your foot in a shop.
Hold on! Shop? Did I just say, “set your foot in a shop”? Like in a physical shop? It seems to me that right now, the online shopping experience has become so incredibly diverse and sophisticated that no matter what you need, it is simply a click away from you. You don’t even need to physically go to a shop. You can get yourself the latest craze from anywhere in the world without actually moving from your sofa. Kind of awesome! Yeahhh, awesome but boring!!!
Anyway, in this lesson aimed at B2 students, we will be focusing on the topic of shopping and we ’ll be comparing online shopping to traditional shopping.
ONE: Lead-in Activities
A. Types of shops
Although students have a B2 level, I find they always welcome an opportunity to review vocabulary and maybe learn the names for some less common shops.
Play the video once without stopping and at the end of it, ask students in pairs to write down as many different kinds of shops as they can remember from the video. Write the words on the board for correct spelling and drill pronunciation.
Divide the class into As and Bs. Ask As to face the board and Bs to face away from it. Play the video, display the first picture and ask As to quickly describe the kind of shop they see on the board. As describes half the pictures and then they change roles with Bs doing the description and As guessing the shop.
Note: The slides contain music. Turn down the volume if you do not want it.
You’ll find the list with all the shops featured in this video at the end of the post.
Click on each of the pictures below to enlarge them and ask students in pairs to comment on them briefly. Ask for feedback.
Note: the slides contain music. I didn’t want it, but I did not have an option. It’s Mozart. Turn down the volume now if you prefer not to be distracted by the music.
TWO. Brainstorm and introduce new vocabulary
Give students two minutes to write down as many words as they know related to shopping. When the two minutes are over, ask them to stop. After a quick round to see who has written the highest number of words ask students to tell you their words, writing on the board only the ones that are a bit more challenging.
For example, words such as “deal” or “goods” will be written on the board while “shop” or “money” will not.
More useful vocabulary:
A good deal: if something is a good deal, you pay a low price. You can say that a store has some great deals, for example
A bargain: the same as above
20% off : the price is now 20% less than the original price
Overpriced: if sth is overpriced, it costs much more than you think it should
To order: when you order something that you are going to pay for, you ask for it to be brought to you, sent to you, or obtained for you. “to order things online”
To place an order
If you have a discount on the retail price, you pay less price than the price normally charged
Goods: things made to be sold
To be scheduled for delivery (tomorrow)
A secure payment page
To enter your card details
Get a refund
You can pay “Cash on Delivery”
To exchange a product
To track your package
Ready to test your knowledge? Fill in the blanks with some of the words above.
THREE. Listening. Video Activity: Singles’ Day
Lead-in: Ask students if they know anything about Singles’ Day. Info,here
Play the video once without giving students any tasks.
Give students the gapped text and ask them to complete it with the words they hear. Play the video.
Play it again, if necessary
See the activity here. You can check the answers by activating the subtitles in the video.
FOUR. Speaking: Online Shopping versus Traditional Shopping
Divide the class into two groups: those preferring online shopping and those preferring traditional shopping. Ideally, you would pair up students in this way, but more often than not, you’ll have to persuade some students to take a different view for the sake of the exercise.
Give each student their corresponding handout and ask them to read the information on it. Their aim, when pairing up with a student holding an opposing view, will be to try to convince their partner to change their mind.
NOTE: These activities will be in Spanish. Students will need to act as mediators in an oral interlinguistic mediation activity.
This is the first time I am going to do an interlinguistic oral mediation activity with my students. My students are going to take the role of mediators and use a source text in Spanish and relay the selected information to an English speaker, who does not understand Spanish.
What is a mediator and what does he do?
The mediator acts as a facilitator in a social event during which two or more parties interacting are experiencing a communication breakdown or when there is a communication gap between them.
Watch the video and find out a bit more about mediation.
These are the first two tasks I have prepared for my students. More would be coming!
Oh my goodness, I’ve been completely obsessed with this tense these past few weeks. Even though my students are studying a B2 level, they still seem to have problems when talking about past events, especially those related to their own lives. It might be because they are so focused on telling their own real stories that grammar tends to be forgotten. It might or it might not. The thing is that I find myself constantly reminding them not to slip to present tenses. I have used several techniques but none of them seem to be working.
You might think I am a bit nuts here but when I have some time to kill, I sometimes find myself thinking about my students’ problems with the language and trying to devise new games or strategies to help them overcome their difficulties.
This strategy came to my mind on my way to Marbella to run a workshop. The plane was delayed by an hour and I had some time to kill. The technology I have used to display the prompts is one that I often use, but the idea for the layout sprang from seeing one of the teachers in the workshop work with Spark Adobe Page ( thanks Monica Redondo). Obviously, you don’t need technology to do this activity but it looks so much nicer!!
Aim: to help students avoid making the mistake of using the present simple when talking about past events.
This engaging past simple activity requires that students help each other fixing the very common mistake of switching to the present tense when talking about events, situations or anecdotes related to their pasts.
In this activity, students work in pairs. Display the first prompt. Student A will talk while Student B will listen. Every single time, Student A slips to the present simple when referring to the past, Student B will stop him by saying: ” Hey! Hold on!”
At this point, student A will need to start again.
Points: every time the student needs to start again, he will score -1 point :(.
Fun: every time a student slips to the present simple, he will have to quickly stand up and sit down 🙂 This also allows you, as a teacher, to see who needs more help.
Allow about 3 minutes and emphasize that even though they don’t make a mistake, they’ll need to talk for the entire three minutes. This will prevent stronger students from finishing before the 3 minutes are over and will challenge them to keep talking by elaborating on their stories.
When the three minutes are over, display a new prompt and ask Student B to do the talking and Student A to help him by paying close attention to the tenses he uses and stopping him using the “Hey! Hold on” technique.
After both Student A and B have talked, ask them to stand up and choose a new partner. Display a new prompt and repeat procedure.
I know, I know, there is more than one blog post about unusual traditions here, but there are so many of them and they are so much fun to listen to. Who doesn’t like being told about a totally surprising or creepy custom? It’s like when you were a little child and liked being told stories about far-away places filled with strange characters doing the most extraordinary things.
Well, this is how I feel when people tell me about unusual customs around the world.
So, whenever in the textbook I am following there is a slight reference to unusual traditions, I jump at the opportunity to do something with it.
In this lesson aimed at B2 students, you’ll find:
Two texts about unusual customs
A video about unusual customs with Ellen Degeneres telling the story. By the way, one of them a surprising Spanish custom I didn’t know about.
The quiz : What nationality are your manners?
How I use Google slides for collaborative projects
In this lesson, students will have to:
Read a text about an unusual custom and retell their partner – (aimed at improving reading and speaking abilities)
Answer a few questions or summarize the traditions heard in the video (aimed at improving listening abilities)
Learn vocabulary and comment on different manners around the world by doing the personality quiz “What nationality are your manners?”
Use technology in a collaborative project (aimed at improving students’ digital competency)
Give a speech of about 3 minutes about an unusual custom around the world (aimed at improving students’ speaking skills)
Lead-In : Speaking
Display the picture below and ask students in pairs to comment on it. After a couple of minutes, get feedback.
There is always someone who has read or knows a bit about this custom, mainly because every single time a member of the British Royal family goes to New Zealand this is the most popular picture to take. In case they know nothing about it, you can tell them this is the Maori way of greeting people, called Hongi. It is used at important ceremonies. Through the exchange of this greeting, one is no longer considered a visitor.
Have a brief conversation about the etiquette of kissing in your country
Listening: Odd Traditions Around the World (0:00-2:06)
If you have been reading this blog for a while, you’ll probably know that I’m a big fan of Ellen Degeneres. Write her name on the board and ask students if they know who she is. Tell students they are going to listen to a short extract from Ellen Degeneres show about Odd Traditions around the world.
Note: I have only used the first two traditions (0:00- 2:06 ), the third one is way too weird for my taste.
Write Groundhog Day on the board. Tell students this tradition will be mentioned in the video, but they will learn more about it in the next activity.
There are no questions here. The first time you play the video, students will be required to write down the names of the two festivals. The second time, they will have to explain everything they have learned about the two festivals.
Reading about Two Unusual Traditions. Retelling.
Ask students “Have you heard about any unusual traditions in your country or around the world? Ask students to talk in pairs and get feedback
Ask students to work in pairs. Student A will get a copy of Groundhog Day (American tradition) and Student B, a copy of Guy Fawkes Day (British tradition).
Give them some minutes to read it a couple of times and then, in pairs, ask them to tell their partner about their tradition in as much detail as possible.
Speaking: Giving a short speech about an unusual celebration.
The only thing probably worth mentioning here is the fact that we have used Google Slides to work collaboratively.
I am a very visual person. I do not want to imply that listening to my students’ speeches is boring, but I cannot deny that it is much more pleasant to look at some pictures of the tradition being described, while listening to the students’ performances.
Problem? Every student will bring their own flash drive, we will need to Insert the flash drive into the USB port on the computer, run a virus scan …. etc and this takes time. A lot of time.
Solution? I created a Google Slides Presentation, used the first two slides to give instructions and then wrote the names of my students on the slides. One slide per student. I shared the URL with Edit permissions and asked them to, instead of their name, write the name of their festival and then insert a picture below it. Problem solved.
A speaking Activity Using the Quiz: What nationality are your manners?
This fun quiz contains some very interesting questions which can spark a lot of discussion in the class.
Do the quiz with the whole class. Display question number 1 and ask a student at random to choose the answer that is true for him. Ask the whole class to discuss some of the other options.
If you think they are boring, perhaps I might succeed in changing your mind once you read about this activity.
Writing is always on my mind (like Joe Manganiello 😀 ). It ‘s true that I should probably dedicate more time to writing tasks in class, but writing takes a lot of time and time is a luxury I cannot always afford. For this reason, I try to do small writing activities that take less time but have proven very effective.
If you have been reading my blog for some time you have probably guessed a thing or two about me: I am a huge fan of competitions and anything that brings fun and a relaxed atmosphere – and probably a little bit of noise- into the classroom.
I think the exercise I’m about to describe combines perfectly well the two above. I have used it to revise reported speech (indirect speech) and more specifically reporting verbs, but it can be easily adapted to any other point of grammar you need to revise.
In case you are wondering, below is a picture of the grass skirt I have used for this activity. You can also call them tearable sentences, but I like grass skirts better. You can make your own template o download the one Tekhnologic very kindly offers on his website. I have used his.
Before the class: Decide on 8 sentences using a variety of reporting verbs you’d like your students to translate. You can use Tekhnologic’s template or create your own. Write the sentences in the spaces provided. Print as many copies as you need and cut along the dotted lines. Each group of three or four students will be assigned a copy. A good idea would be to use a different coloured paper for each group, but this is entirely optional. Put them on the walls of the class.
Now, you are ready to start.
Ask students to work in groups of three or four. Draw students’ attention to the walls of the class and assign each group a poster with the 8 sentences.
Tell students that the aim of the game would be to translate all the sentences on their assigned poster on the wall. To do so, they must nominate a runner who is the one who must run to the wall, tear off the sentence, run back to his group and then together translate the sentence.
Once it’s done, the runner must go to the teacher and show him their translated sentence. If it’s correct, the runner can tear off the second sentence. If it’s incorrect, he must return to his group and correct the mistake(s). The teacher can help a bit by underlining where the mistake is. Only if the teacher has marked the sentence with a tick, it is considered correct.
The runner cannot tear off a new sentence until the previous one has been shown to the teacher and marked with a tick.
The runner cannot correct the sentence at the teacher’s desk. He must return to his group and there, correct the sentence.
Groups can only tear off sentences from their assigned posters.
The first group to have a tick in all 8 sentences is the winner.
Follow-up: Whole class. Read out the sentences from the poster and ask students to, orally, translate them. Focus on any common problems you might have noticed.
Give runners a round of well-deserved applause and maybe something to drink 😆
Naturally, I am a huge supporter of any activity that involves students getting out of their seats and interacting with other students. Also, if you have been reading me for a while, you will surely know that I am always worried about making vocabulary stick.
So, this super simple activity combines these two things+ zero preparation. How does that sound? Yes, I know. Besides, it’s compatible with any topic you are working with. Believe me, this activity is a hit.
There is a 99% chance that you will end up participating in the activity, but please, do not get all proper and spoil the fun by telling students to keep their voices down. Let them enjoy.
Aim: to make vocabulary stick by revising, reinforcing and using it. Topic: Any. I was working with the theme of environment, but any topic would do
How to go about it
1. Revision with slips of paper. Start by revising the vocabulary you have introduced in previous lessons. I usually write the vocabulary I need to revise on slips of paper, place myself in the middle of the classroom (desks are arranged in a U shape) and very quickly give a short definition, synonym or antonym. The student who guesses correctly gets the slip of card. The winner, as you might have guessed, is the student who has more cards at the end of this activity. I do this activity very often. I think I like it because I can see that my students love it and it is a good exercise not only to revise meanings but also to work on pronunciation.
2. Writing 5 newly- acquired words. Ask students to write on a small scrap of paper 5 words they have learned. If they have learned “make the most of” for example, encourage them to write the whole expression and not just “make the most “.
3. On the board, write a question for the students to discuss in pairs.
4. Tell the students to stand up with the scrap of paper containing their words and choose a partner to talk to. They can sit down if they want to or they can remain standing.
5. Ask them to swap the pieces of papers and read the 5 words on it making sure they know what they mean. If they don’t, they should ask their partner to explain or clarify meanings
6. Point to the question on the board and ask them to discuss it trying to introduce as many words as possible from their list of words. Allow 4 or 5 minutes to discuss this question.
7. Important step: Ask students to swap lists again before asking them to stand up and find a new partner.
8. Write a new question for discussion on the board. Ask students to sit down with their new partner, swap the scraps of paper and repeat procedure.
My students said they loved the game! Let me know what your students think if you decide to give it a go.
As I thrust this lesson plan towards my students, I realize how little I know about what some environmentally-related terms mean. I know I have heard people talking about the carbon footprint and acid rain, but honestly, I have never given it much thought. I recycle. I really try to. I don’t eat meat and try to buy local products. But thinking hard. I guess that’s it. I am drowning in eco-guilt, but this needs to change.
I have promised myself two very simple things: to use reusable shopping bags and to cut down on the minutes I spend singing in the shower. The shower thing is going to be hard. Really hard.
I have just read in the The Guardian this list with 50 easy ways to save the planet. Really, point 16 and 34 are just gross.
This lesson is aimed at students with a language level of B2 (upper-intermediate) and focuses on revising, learning and using vocabulary related to the environment and environmental issues through a variety of engaging activities which will help them improve listening and speaking.
You can see this lesson in digital format here and you will also find it embedded at the end of this post
Introducing the Topic
On the board, write I’m eco-guilty of … Ask students in pairs to discuss their environmental dirty secret and then come up to the whiteboard and write it down. Help with vocabulary and then, discuss some the eco-sins written on the board.
Listening: How Environmentally Friendly are you?
Lead in: ask students, in pairs, to write their best tips on how to be environmentally friendly. Write their suggestions on the board.
Listening Comprehension: How to be environmentally friendly.
This is a note-taking exercise.Students listen to some more tips and write them down. Comment on the tips. Correct using subtitles.
Vocabulary: Revising and Introducing New Vocabulary.
After doing the previous activities, students will probably have learnt lots vocabulary. Yes, I know. Wishful thinking. Anyway, let’s keep trying. Draw a mind- map on the board and brainstorm newly-acquired vocabulary drilling pronunciation. Introduce some new terms if appropriate.
Here’sthe vocabulary my students will need to learn and use.
Speaking Activity using Posters
An activity my students always enjoy is gallery-walking. It gives them the opportunity to get out of their seats and interact with other students in the class.
Display posters on the walls containing some predictions about the future. See my posters here.
Ask students, in pairs, to write on a post-it (a scrap of paper+ sellotape would do) a list of 5 words or expressions they have learned related to the topic. Take their lists and put them on the walls next to the posters. There should be at least one list per poster.
Gallery Walk: ask students, in pairs or small groups, to stand up and discuss the sentences written on the posters making sure they use some of the words on the list.
Listening: Environmental Issues our Planet is Facing.
Warm up: Ask students, in pairs, to brainstorm environmental issues our planet is facing. Write their suggestions on the board and discuss them.
The listening task: Play the video below ( only from 0:00 to 1:35)and ask students to find the answers to the following :
How old is the earth?
How old is the human race?
List 4 general problems mentioned in the video related to the sea, the animals, the ocean and climate change
Check their answers. Play the video with the subtitles on.
In this part, students will work in pairs. Encourage the use of the vocabulary they have learned in previous exercises. Use the lists of vocabulary students wrote for the posters activity, giving each pair of students one of these lists. Ask them to swap lists as we move through the questions.
Embedded below. you will find the online lesson with the questions for discussion. Just scroll down the different activities.
Students, in pairs, talk about the topics suggested in the pictures. Brainstorm ideas for a minute or so, and ask them to speak for about 4 minutes.
Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world- Nelson Mandela
I’m so excited. Truly. I am. It’s been months since the last time I taught a class full of students. I know it’s going to be hard but I’m really willing to get back in the swing of things. I’m also preparing material for my workshops, and I have a bunch of work to catch up on, but I’m anyway feeling really motivated. So, it seems I am off to a good start.
This isa lesson for upper- intermediate students (B2) about education. In this post, you will find
Some vocabulary you might need to revise/learn when discussing this subject.
A small challenge with some confusing terms related to education
A video about 6 problems of our education system
Speaking practice: questions to discuss
A written assignment
The warm-up. Setting the context
I don’t think there is a better way to introduce a topic than by showing students a picture that will probably spark interest and hook students into the lesson. That’s the aim of the picture below.
Show the picture and listen to student’ reactions. Probably, the first one would be “Me, neither”, but let’s dig in for more profound reactions.
Tell students to get into pairs and think of three reasons why this boy wouldn’t want to go to school. Allow them 2 or 3 minutes and the write their suggestions on the board and discuss them.
Ask students: Can you relate to the boy in this picture? What can you remember about your kindergarten? In your opinion, what’s the ideal age to start school?
Ask students to work in pairs. Write on the board the word “education” and ask students to brainstorm vocabulary related to the topic. Encourage them to mind map to help them revise vocabulary related to this thematic area. Allow them some minutes and get feedback from the whole class. I gave handout 1 to my intermediate students last year, so this year (B2), I will probably need to revise and add the terms in handout 2 explaining difficult vocabulary.
The challenge.Did you know?
In this part of the lesson, students are presented with some confusing terms.
Ask students, in pairs or small groups, to answer the following questions about education, where they will revise some of the vocabulary learned in the previous step. Encourage the use of new vocabulary.
You can get the PDF with the questions here, but isn’t it more appealing to use the Spark below.
Listening. The video: 6 problems with our school system.
Methodology: collaborative retelling
It is a longish video. It lasts almost 6 minutes so I’d suggest breaking it up and asking students to work on different parts of the video. In the video, 6 problems with our education system are mentioned.
This activity will be set as homework.
Introduction. In class, play the first 34 seconds of the video and tell students to give you a summary. They will probably say that the video shows how our system of education has become obsolete and is not preparing children for the real world. Ask them whether they agree with this idea.
Explain that everybody will need to listen to the introduction again (first 34 sec) which summarizes the content of the video.
Tell students the video talks about 6 problems our current education system is facing nowadays.
Form groups of six students and tell them that, in the next lesson, they will be working in groups of six and each of them will share what they have learned about their assigned problem and their opinion on whether this is a real problem in their country providing examples, if possible.Alternatively, you can form groups of 3 students and assign each student two problems.
Assign tasks to the different students in the group
Student 1: Industrial Age values 0:35-1:26
Student 2: Lack of autonomy 1:26-2:18
Student 3: Inauthentic learning 2:18-3:12
Student 4: No room for passion 3:12-4:15
Student 5: Differences in how we learn 4:15-4:40
Student 6: Lecturing 4:40-5:56
Writing. An opinion essay.
Write an opinion essay on the following:
Our current system of education is now outdated and ineffective.
Here’s a nice post I wrote last year which might help you.
I must have been in my teens, but I vividly remember my mother telling my father that someone called James Dean had called. The funny part was not only that the famous now-long- deceased actor had phoned my dad, but the way everybody pronounced his name, /jamez dean/, as if it was the most natural thing in the world, while me and my naughty siblings couldn’t help cracking up, repeating /james dean, james dean/while in stitches. (The Spanish pronunciationof the “j” is similar to the Scottish word “loch” or the German word “Bach”)
In case you are wondering, my parents (now almost 80) had never ever heard a word in English so everybody said /james dean/ just like that and never gave it a second thought. We, me and my three siblings, just liked fooling around. I know better now!! 🙂
About the lesson:
In this lesson, aimed at B2 students and above, students discuss their names and their personalities through some engaging activities.
In part 2, you have the possibility of asking students to use their own devices and complete the task in class or alternatively set the task for homework.
Part 1. Talking about your name
A video-based listening activity
Tell students they are going to watch a short extract from the Graham Norton show, where the actresses Meryl Streep and Nicole Kidman discuss their birth names. Play from 0:00 until 2:50.
To be named ( after someone)
To name someone
A pet name
A middle name
Play the video once and ask students some comprehension questions. Play the video a second time if necessary.
Meryl Streep was named Mary at birth. How did she end up being called Meryl?
Is she happy about her surname? How does she wish it to be different?
Why is Nicole Kidman called Hokulani? Who is she named after?
Are you happy with your name? Why (not)?
Does your name have a meaning? If so, what does it mean?
Do you have a middle name? What is it?
Do you have a nickname? If so, what is it and how did you get it?
If you could change your name would you? What would it be? Why?
U2’s lead singer, Bono, called his daughter Memphis Eve and Gwyneth Paltrow’s daughter is called Apple. Do you know any “normal people” with unique baby names? What about you, do you prefer giving your child a more traditional name or a unique name?
In some countries, when women marry they take their husband’s last name? What do you think of this?
Part 2. Talking about your personality
In this second part, we are going to revise and learn some more complex personality adjectives. To introduce personality adjectives we are going to use a website which analyses your personality based on the numerical value of your name. Whether students believe in it or not should be irrelevant, we are only interested in language acquisition here.
As this lesson is aimed at upper-intermediate students and above, students will have some prior knowledge of the most common personality adjectives, at least enough to get them started.
Ask students whether they think a name can shape their personality and refer them to this website where they’ll have to write their name in the space provided and read about their personality.
You can always ask them to read their horoscope, but this is “old news”, so I thought this might better spark students’ interest.
At home, students go to the website and find out about their personality based on their names. They look up any new words they don’t know, especially personality adjectives, as they will need to share this analysis with their classmates and say whether they agree or disagree with it, giving reasons.
This activity can be done in a traditional way i.e board and chalk. Students call out an adjective and you write the personality adjective on the board.
Again, with the aim of creating a more engaging activity, I’m going to use a free online tool called “Answergarden” to get instantaneous feedback. The tool is very easy to use. Here’s a tutorial in case you need it, but it really has a very friendly intuitive interface making it very easy to use, even for those teachers who are not too tech-savvy. The app takes students answers and creates a word cloud that can be exported or embedded. Students will need to use their own devices but, if necessary, every three students can share one.
Once you have created the word cloud in Asnwergarden, use the overhead proyector to display it and ask volunteer students to explain the meaning of the adjectives and say whether they think it is positive, negative or neutral.
Below, an example of a word cloud created with Answergarden.
Put students in pairs and ask them to share their name report from the website and say whether they agree or disagree with such analysis.
Ask them to discuss the following questions.
What kind of people do you usually get along with?
What kinds of personality traits do you hate?
Is your personality more similar to your mother’s or father’s?
Do you think we are born with our personalities, or do we develop them because of what happens to us?
Do you tend to fall in love with good looks or with a great personality?
Does one person’s character affect the personalities of the surrounding people? Are you influenced by anybody you know?
Does birth order affect personality? What qualities do a first-born child, a last-born and an only child have?
The Quiz: As Free as a Bird.
Let’s go the extra mile! In this quiz, you’ll find more colourful ways to talk about someone’s personality. In order to learn them, I suggest taking the quiz two or three times, the last time checking if just by looking at the picture students can remember the simile.
After doing the quiz, you can always ask some follow-up questions like: